As a Cinema Studies student who doesn’t want to miss any new films in the theatres, I remember the end of last year as a hustle to fit in seeing all the latest movies despite my tight schedule. Jojo Rabbit, unfortunately, couldn’t get to be one of them. Even though a World War II satire sounded interesting, I didn’t find time to see in the theatres before it was gone, as I didn’t prioritize it after it was harshly criticized in my Film Criticism class.
Most of my classmates didn’t enjoy the film, and I remember one of them explaining it as it was an outdated safe path to make Adolf Hitler the villain of a story. So, I trusted my friends that the film wouldn’t worth my precious time.
But I was wrong! The same happened with Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, too. Nobody I knew liked the film, and I was ready to get bored for 160 long minutes. I ended up enjoying it so much that I’d say it was one of the best films I saw last year. I don’t know what’s going on with my film taste or my classmates’, but maybe it is good that Tisch isn’t favoring one taste over the other so that we can engage in class discussions with opposing ideas.
After seeing two Waititi films last week, I knew I had to see this one, too. Jojo Rabbit also stars a young boy (Roman Griffin Davis) who is excited to be raised as an Aryan warrior in Nazi Youth Camp, and his imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi), whom he idealizes. After discovering that his mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in their walls, his experience of Jews clashes with what he has been taught in the camps.
The film obviously faced contrasting reviews. Some found it very amusing (Ellen Degeneres says it is one of her favorite movies ever), and quite a few found it disappointing. It is probably not my favorite Waititi film, but I liked and wanted to point out several aspects of it.
The opening scene shows the extreme joy and zeal of a blond, blue-eyed young boy to become a Nazi, which might sound offensive for some. The director supports this scene with real footage from the 1940s of people cheering for the Führer. He reminds the viewer that this is just another story from a horrid past with a slightly different tone and perspective.
Similarly, I liked the disclaimer attached to the representation of Hitler as it exists in the imagination of a little boy. The buffoonery is almost like a must-have in a Hitler satire; I’m thinking of Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. But I enjoyed the details, as it makes sense for a kid to imagine Hitler would eat a unicorn’s head for dinner. Waititi says he wasn’t aiming to cast himself for this character, but I can’t imagine anyone else creating the exact tone he achieved.
“You are 10, Jojo. Start acting like it.”
I liked that the kid is acting like a kid and is not super brave, exceptionally sharp, or does the right thing at the right moment. I think Jojo, when observed from a general coming-of-age perspective apart from the specific context, is a well-written character with a strong arc.
The “Hail Hitler” salute was a real thing whenever they entered a room. The filmmaker breaks a record by including 31 of them in a minute not only for humor reasons but also because it shows how ridiculous the Nazis were with the rules they created.
I enjoyed Waititi’s child-like imaginary version of the racist history with goofy humor and rich side characters (especially Jojo’s adorable friend Yorki). I like it when we can laugh at the funny aspects of a painful past. I know I’m not the only one to think this way as the film is the 2020 Academy Award winner for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay.